Posted By Kelly Swanson,
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
My Grandmother’s Funeral
Five years ago we buried my grandmother, a deliciously bold woman who lived life on her own terms. I was her favorite, or so she said. I’m pretty sure it’s true. Everything that makes me weird (which I consider a blessing, by the way) came from my grandmother. I miss her smile, her warm hands that smelled of buttermilk biscuits, and her green beans that would leave a sheen of lard gloss on your lips for weeks.
I had the honor of delivering her eulogy being the only professional speaker in the family. (Yes, Aunt Myrtle, it is a real job.) As I stood at the podium, trying to sum up this woman’s 88 years on earth in 25 minutes, I looked around and realized that this was all wrong. None of this was what she would have wanted. The setting wasn’t right. The music was all wrong. People were bored. I’m pretty sure even Granny had stopped listening hours ago.
A stuffy room with plastic mauve flowers, green shag carpeting, and faded watercolor prints – well, it wasn’t my grandmother. She deserved something more than that. Something more to honor the fact that she was here. Something as unique as she was, to close out her chapter on earth. I found it ironic that we had spent a year planning my cousin Nadine’s wedding and a day planning my grandmother’s funeral. I had loved my grandmother for 47 years. Nadine’s marriage didn’t last six months.
After Granny’s service, a group of us sat around the fire in the lobby of the hotel sharing stories that made us laugh and cry, stories about the woman we knew and the woman we would miss. I’m pretty sure Granny was there the entire time, laughing harder than any of us. At some point we stumbled into a conversation about how we wanted our own funerals to be. The typical kind of conversation that happens when death stops your normal routine and makes you face your own mortality.
We all described our most important last wishes ranging from “nothing fancy,” to “please put me in this dress,” to “sprinkle me across the lake behind the mountain cabin and make sure it’s not windy that day so my ashes don’t go flying back into your face.” I made it quite clear that I wanted a big turnout, with lots of music (a roaming harpist would be nice) and some professional wailers, just to make sure everybody is certain of how much I will be missed. I want high drama. Standing room only, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and please show clips from my best speeches. Make sure they give me a standing ovation, and you can probably sell some of my books in the back. Hey, what can I say? I’m a motivational speaker. It’s what we do.
My ability to make people laugh, inspire them, move them, teach them, change their perspective and heal their heart, has never been about the points I teach, but the stories I tell. My entire career and every amazing door that has opened, was opened because of my ability to tell a good story. No amount of data or information can impact on an emotional level like a story can. Master that skill and you can master any job.
As I sat there listening to the stories, I saw how passionate people were about how they wanted to be ushered out of this world – how they wanted their story to end. Each story was as unique as its author.
The funeral home did everything they said they would do for my granny. It was a perfectly nice service. They did all the right things. And yet, I’m pretty sure that not one person in that room will seek them out in the future. Why? Because the funeral home told the wrong story.
Why Story Matters to Your Business
Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
Hello CANA. Kelly Swanson here. I’m a motivational speaker and a comedian, which means I tell you that you can do anything and then I tell you I’m just kidding. I’m delighted and honored to be spending time with you at your 2018 Symposium as your keynote speaker and strategic storytelling expert. I’m even more delighted that I get this opportunity today to say a few words about a subject I have been studying my whole life – storytelling.
There’s no question about it, no matter what our industry, we are all fighting for business in a crowded market – to get customers and keep them, to get our employees to do more with less and be happier doing it, to convince our buyer of a need they don’t realize they have, to be stronger leaders crafting a lasting legacy, and to keep our business relevant in the face of constant change and uncertainty. And, in your case, trying to make a lasting impression when often you are the last thing on their mind.
Wow. No wonder we’re stressed. I’ve faced these issues in my own business and so have hundreds of other audiences I’ve visited over the years. All of these issues have one thing in common – influencing people. Yep. Getting people to do what we want them to do. No matter how much the playground changes, the game hasn’t. Our business success is in direct correlation to how well we influence people.
The ability to articulate your story or that of your company is crucial to almost every phase of enterprise management. It works all along the business food chain. A great salesperson knows how to tell a story in which the product is the hero. A successful line manager can rally the team to extraordinary efforts through a story that shows how short-term sacrifice leads to long-term success. An effective CEO uses an emotional narrative about the company’s mission to attract investors and partners, to set lofty goals, and to inspire employees. Sometimes a well-crafted story can even transform a seemingly hopeless situation into an unexpected triumph.
Peter Guber, author, American film producer & executive and Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, from HR Magazine September (2008)
The way I see it, we are all sales people. Like it or not, we are trying to influence people all day long – whether it’s to get someone to date us, hire us, do business with us, trust us, give money to us, or simply getting our kid to clean up his room. We’re all in the business of persuasion. Every person who works in your company has the ability and opportunity to influence someone else – to affect the brand, the mood, and the culture of the business. Many of us already understand that. But where some of us miss the boat, is the next step…understanding that influence is emotional.
I’ll explain the science behind all of this to you when I get there, so let’s skip right to the thing you need to know most: If influence is like sales, then the cardinal rule of sales applies – that people buy from people they like, trust, believe, and feel like they know.
Like. Trust. Believe. Know. Take a look at those words. Those words have nothing to do with what you make people think and everything to do with how you make people feel – about you, your brand, and themselves. People buy based on emotion but many of us don’t get there. We stay on the surface. We miss that deeper opportunity to go beyond communicating to connecting.
Authentic connection is the key strategy in business today. No matter what you’re selling, where you’re selling it, or how you’re getting the message out – giving them the facts alone doesn’t work. It’s the reason why some win and some lose without ever understanding why.
Don’t Believe Me, Ask Around
I’ve been polling people in every audience where I speak. I just spoke for a college admissions group so I polled parents and students who’ve been on recent college tours. My goal? To find out why they chose the one they chose.
I’ve polled buyers of healthcare, insurance, beauty products, financial planners, attorneys – you name it – and while they were all looking for something different, their reason for choosing who they did were consistently the same. They chose the one they connected with emotionally.
As soon as I found out I would be speaking for you, I conducted another survey with my social media groups about you: your businesses and the services they’d experienced there. I gathered their stories and studied the reasons some were happy and some weren’t. Again – it was all about connection.
That’s what we’re going to talk about when I come visit. I’m going to share with you the best (and perhaps only) tool that will connect with anybody you want to influence – STORY.
Many businesses have already figured out the value of strategic storytelling, or at least they think they do. But they are still not connecting with their buyer. Why? First, because they don’t really know what a story is – how to craft it and how to use the tool to get a desired effect. They’re basically just telling stories because someone told them they should. Many people talk about storytelling, but few can really teach it. Second, many businesses are telling the wrong story or, at the very least, an unfinished story. You may think it’s just about telling the world your story. But it’s not. There are actually three stories you should be telling.
That’s enough for you to chew on today. If you understand why connection matters over communication, you’ve got enough to think about. The next step is how to use story to do it. We’ll go deeper into it later – my six secrets to connecting and my story formula to help you craft stories that convince and persuade – at CANA’s 2018 Cremation Symposium.
Just remember this: No matter how technologically advanced we get, or how much the playground changes and shifts quickly under our feet, the truth still remains the same – this is a people business. It’s about relationships. It’s about creating authentic connections. Focus on that, and the rest will fall into place.
Want to read some more articles or continue the conversation? Find me on LinkedIn.
I can’t wait to meet you at convention and swap stories. Buckle up, because it’s going to be an exciting ride!
Join Kelly and CANA at the 2018 Cremation Symposium to learn how you can set your business and yourself apart with the power of storytelling. Register soon for your chance to be in the “hot seat” and develop your story live, onstage with Kelly Swanson! Sponsored by Batesville.
Connect the Dots with us, February 6-8 at Paris Las Vegas at the 2018 Cremation Symposium.
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, motivational speaker, comedian, expert guest on The Fashion Hero TV show, author of Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale and The Story Formula, and a strategic storytelling expert. In addition to making people laugh, motivating them, and helping them tap into the passion and purpose for what they do and why it matters, she teaches them how to use story to raise their level of influence. She is a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at the 2018 CANA Symposium. www.MotivationalSpeakerKellySwanson.com
tips and tools
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
What do Canadians know that might benefit their colleagues across the border? In order to try and answer that question, The Cremationist contacted successful members from the three most populous provinces— Louis Savard (Quebec), Laurie Cole (Ontario), and Ryan McLane (British Columbia)—to ask them for their opinions on factors contributing to Canada’s higher cremation rate, how that rate has affected the way they do business, how they approach cremation and talk to cremation families, what their experience with direct cremation has been, and what advice they might give to a U.S. colleague.
Market Director for Quebec, Service Corporation International
The impact of rising cremation rates began for Canada in the 1980s and 90s. Since then, we’ve learned to live with the high rate. Because we’ve been experiencing high cremation rates since the 90s, it’s not a big deal for us. It’s just our day-to-day operation. We are living with it. Back then, it changed everything we did.
Celebrating the life of a loved one is the same. Cremation doesn’t mean people don’t want to make an investment. It’s not just disposal of the body and it doesn’t mean they don’t want to get together. There is the same need to celebrate the life of a loved one. Today, cremation and burial in Canada are the same. Visitation in Quebec is the same. Celebration and services, people meeting and talking together to celebrate the life of a loved one.
The cremation rate in the U.S. is going through what we went through 20-25 years ago. I work with an international company that serves the U.S. and Canada. The company only began adding catering services a few years ago in the U.S., but we started catering in Canada 20 years ago. It’s a big, big piece of the service we provide and adds a lot to our revenue. People sharing a glass of wine, being all together, having a eulogy at the same time as the reception.
We need to adapt ourselves to what people want, because we have to create all kinds of ways to have a life celebration. We need to have an open mind. If each life is unique, each celebration is unique. If you have an open mind, you can do everything, listening closely and carefully and working with the family to celebrate a unique life. You cannot be trained for that—you have to be a person who is creative, working with families and listening attentively to build that honor.
People want to celebrate life. The funeral home is not where they live, where they meet with their families, where they have fun. They want to celebrate a life where they are comfortable.
With cremation we can do whatever we want. Not so much with a burial.
President and Owner of Cole Funeral Services
Cremation has become a choice for many families, religious or not. It really is not a cost issue: people truly just want to choose cremation as part of the service instead of choosing traditional burial. With an onsite cemetery, we offer many options for memorialization for cremation burial. Some families do choose to keep the urn or scatter the cremated remains, but we also have a lot of heritage at Pinecrest, so many families do have the option of placing urns with family members who already rest at Pinecrest. That being said, even if there is no room in a family plot, families may still choose to purchase land for the urn burial based on the heritage affiliation as well.
With cremation, families can also focus on more details and options for the service. They have more time to plan the event with us rather than with the more “traditional” type of service. They can turn their attention to items such as linen color, personalization of the photos, stationery, food and alcohol selections, and creating their own floral arrangements or music playlists and the like. A cremation family may choose a simple container or casket, but they tend to focus on the urn and possibly an urn vault. They don’t see the value in an ornate casket, but may find value with the urn, jewelry, an urn vault for mementos, the memorial cards, or the land/monument or niche.
When a family says, “We just want cremation,” as service providers, we should not assume this means direct cremation. It oftentimes means that they want cremation and not traditional burial, but they still want some sort of gathering with food and beverages, a service, and a viewing to honor their loved one. Yes, 80% of our families choose cremation. But of that 80%, only 10% request a true direct cremation—and I always share that fact with colleagues in the industry.
My advice is to communicate all the choices to a family, regardless if they say, “We just want cremation.” We are doing a disservice to our families if we do not show them all the options available, for some simply may not be aware of their choices and may see value in them once they know about them.
Market Manager for Vancouver Island, Service Corporation International
I have been witnessing requests for direct cremation for 20 years now in British Columbia. I don’t think this is a U.S. phenomenon in any way. This direct cremation concept begins with an active increase in cremation requests as a whole.
The cremation rate has been considerable for a long time now in British Columbia. Over the years, many people have discussed the reasons for this and agreed that a number of important factors come into play. The most common suggestion is the nature of our transient society in British Columbia. We have had a very high rate of immigration over the years, as well as a very high mobility rate among people retiring to British Columbia from other parts of Canada. This leads to fewer people in their social network and less family around them. When a death occurs, cremation is viewed as a way to ensure that end of life is “not so complicated” or a way to “keep it simple.”
Funeral directors can never assume that they know what the family is thinking. The most difficult thing to overcome is the perception that the family wants nothing but a direct cremation. So many times the family doesn’t even know what they are asking for. Many request cremation and nothing else. But what does “nothing else” actually mean to them? How can the funeral director be more involved? Families want to keep it simple. But what is your definition of simple?
I see a difference in the need for explanation to what is available to almost every cremation consumer. Many people who select cremation are not aware that they can still have a visitation, or still have a service and still have a cemetery plot. Once you start to explore the options with a family, they will want to create a personal service for their loved one. Many times this is independent of any mainstream religion, and oftentimes families have no affiliation with the local church.
Over the years, it has been evident that the cremation consumer is looking for value. That does not mean that the consumer is cheap but rather that they are focused on purchasing items or services that are meaningful to them. Personalization is very important, as well as efficiency. As time goes on, requests for embalming have been replaced with requests for catering. We’ve also had to adapt and create new traditions for the families that are not affiliated with organized religion and who want chapel services with or without viewings.
Funeral directors have to educate families. The cremation concept is not a new concept but people just don’t know realize all the options they can have for arrangements. Families need to make educated decisions with a funeral director. As traditions evolve, we as funeral professionals need to take the lead to educate and to continue to help create meaningful events for families to say goodbye to their loved ones.
This post has been excerpted from Vol. 53, No. 4 Issue of The Cremationist and edited for length. Members can read the full version and insights on cremation traditions around the world in the original issue.
The CANA network is one of the most powerful benefits of attending a CANA event and membership with the association. CANA provides the space where cremation professionals can share important conversations with people who get you and your business. Consider connecting with CANA and other industry experts at the 2018 Cremation Symposium for topics that inspire innovative thinking.
Not a member? Join your business to access this article and all archives of The Cremationist plus advice, tools, techniques, and statistics to help you understand how to increase your cremation success -- only $470.
Louis Savard, Service Corporation International’s Market Director for Quebec and Vice President of SCI Canada, entered funeral service in 1985. He was the National Sales Director for Atlas Casket and worked for three years at Lepine Cloutier Funeral Home as a sales manager in preneed before moving on to SCI in 1992, where he was involved in corporate development.
Laurie Cole, President and Owner of Cole Funeral Services and Secretary-Treasurer/Director of Operations for Pinecrest Remembrance Services, is a fourth-generation descendant of John Cole, founder of the original Pinecrest Remembrance Services, established in 1924. In addition to her tireless service to Ottawa through the Rotary Club of Ottawa Kanata Sunrise, a supporter of the Live/Work/Play program, she has also served on the Board of Directors of the Cremation Association of North America. A mother of two, Laurie is a country girl at heart and has even earned a college diploma as a veterinary technologist.
Ryan McLane is the current Market Manager for Vancouver Island with Service Corporation International. He has worked both in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island for over 20 years. He is also a Past President of the British Columbia Funeral Association.
tips and tools
Posted By CANA Staff,
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018
In the spirit of the holiday, CANA staff took time to reflect on what our work makes us thankful for. To a one, the answer was simple.
We’re grateful for our members. You have served us in our times of grief, throughout history, and reliably with compassion and respect. Thank you. Thank you for working the holidays and weekends. Thank you for the labor you perform that goes noticed and unnoticed.
So this post shares the many ways in which each of us are thankful for you. Happy holidays from the staff of CANA.
I am grateful for CANA’s supplier members and their creative and sensitive development of products that have meaning for grieving families. Part of my job includes reviewing the ads and editing the articles that are published in The Cremationist and taking photos of the exhibits at CANA’s conventions and symposiums. In the course of these duties, I’ve been able to see many examples of designs that have been thoughtfully devised to personalize and contemporize memorialization.
This first-hand exposure recently brought comfort to a circle of loved ones and old pals when I attended a celebration of life for my best friend, who died this past spring. Dottie and I spent our childhood summers together on the shores of Lake Michigan and she raised her own family there. During the cremation arrangement conference with Dottie’s daughter, Ali, I remembered I had seen a handcrafted biodegradable urn that perfectly suited my friend’s personality and lifestyle. The funeral director was able to show it to us via an online catalog. Ali agreed that it was just what her mother would have wanted.
This October, the people gathered for a night of storytelling and remembrance. We were each able to write a farewell message on the urn that contained a portion of my friend’s cremated remains. Many of them remarked on the pleasure it gave them to send her off in this way.
The next morning, a few of us headed out to the beach where Dottie and I had spent so many nights laughing and counting the stars. Ali placed the urn in the water and we said goodbye.
— Sara Corkery, Communications Manager
In the two short years since joining CANA I have experienced two deaths in my family. And both times, CANA members were an integral part of getting me and my family through it. The first death came three months into my job when my 35-year-old cousin died from a heart attack caused by years of heroine abuse. My aunt had to arrange for his cremation in Colorado from her home in Arizona. Being brand new to the industry, I had no idea how to navigate making arrangements from a distance and was extremely grateful for the advice from CANA member and board member Bob Boetticher, Jr. He even called to check on me later that day, showing a compassion that I soon learned is a key characteristic of funeral directors in this industry.
Sadly, a year and a half later, that same aunt’s husband, my uncle Marty, finally lost his battle with leukemia. I was the first one she called for help, and I immediately turned to CANA member Elisa Krcilek from Mountain View Funeral Home in Mesa, AZ. Elisa personally came to my aunt’s house because she’d refused to set foot in the funeral home. And when my aunt started to price shop and look at someone with a less-than-stellar reputation, Elisa sold her on the peace of mind over low-cost providers. Elisa kept in constant contact with my aunt and myself, letting us know as each step in the process was complete.
Eventually, my aunt did set foot in the funeral home and purchased a beautiful urn to keep at home, several keepsake urns for her husband’s siblings, and a piece of Madelyn Co jewelry that she proudly showed me the next time I saw her. She loves being able to have part of him with her always. Knowing my aunt, I am convinced that she would never have bought the keepsake urns or the jewelry if she hadn’t gone to the funeral home, which she would never have done if Elisa had not shown her the kindness and compassion that comes so naturally to the industry as a whole and Elisa in particular. My aunt even recommended Elisa and Mountain View to a friend a few months later and plans to buy another piece of jewelry for some of her son’s remains.
As I travel throughout the country to CANA and other industry events, I fall more in love with the people in this industry. You are some of the kindest, smartest, funniest and most compassionate people I have ever met, and I am so thankful to be able to work with you everyday when I come to work. Thank you for being you, and doing what you do. You are my heroes.
— Jennifer Head, Education Director
We get more calls from consumers than I think even our members know. Sometimes they just attended a preneed program and want to know more about your company. Other times, they are confused or scared by a process they don’t understand but are forced to contemplate. The worst times, they are grieving for a loved one just on the other side of the door or inside of an urn sitting on their mantel.
On a personal level, I consider myself lucky to have never been in their shoes. My only interaction with the industry before I was hired two years ago was attending services for elderly relatives for whom “it was time” and had “gone to a better place.” But professionally, this meant I had a steep learning curve to be able to understand the industry and address these calls. In the past two years, I’ve spoken to countless members who welcomed my questions and responded with patience and warmth. Thank you.
More than that, I am grateful that when I recommend a CANA member to these callers, I know you will respond with the same patience and warmth you gave me. That any caller described above will be heard and served with the utmost care and respect because they called a CANA member. I’m thankful that I can tell the caller with certainty that our members can help them at any part of the process and that they will find support during this difficult time with you.
— Brie Bingham, Membership Coordinator
I spent part of the week before Thanksgiving on the road for CANA in Houston, TX. I staffed a COCP training and spent a fruitful day at the National Museum of Funeral History working on content for the History of Cremation Exhibit scheduled to debut in September 2018. I traveled home marveling about the legacy and impact former and current CANA members have made and are making.
I am so grateful for the many leadership roles CANA leaders have played over the years. From shaping the first laws forming the cremation industry to inventing much of the technology we still use today, CANA members did it. Often facing opposition from competing funeral homes or the queasy media, CANA members prevailed and promoted their cremation vision and services to their communities.
The progressive and entrepreneurial spirit that inspired CANA founders to establish the association in 1913 and convene for the first convention in 1918 prevails today. In this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for each of you, your quest for innovation, transformative service and advancement. You work hard, and this holiday season I hope you take time to enjoy the many fruits of your labors and reflect on the many things for which you are grateful.
— Barbara Kemmis, Executive Director
The above was written in 2017, but holds true today — CANA wouldn't be who we are today without the members who dedicate their careers to serving others, and ourselves, everyday. We're proud to serve you as the Cremation Association of North America, and we've added a new staff member this year who was happy to share her own words of thanks:
I have only been working with CANA for just under a year, and during that time I have learned more than I could ever have imagined. My transition into a completely new industry has been met with new challenges every day. I am thankful not only to my coworkers who answer every single one of my questions in stride, but also to the fantastic members of CANA. It has been the members of CANA who have shown me a new appreciation for this industry. Your dedication, hard work, and compassion for helping others during the hardest of times is truly inspiring. Thank you so much for your kind heartedness!
— Emily Jankowski, Office Administrator
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Posted By Administration,
Friday, November 10, 2017
Recently, Michigan consumer media was alarmed to learn that a funeral home had stored cremated remains in a storage locker. Worried about nefarious dealings, reporters asked if this indicated criminal activity. Asked for comment, the Michigan Funeral Directors Association assured that possession and storage of unclaimed cremated remains is common.
Indeed, the new owners of the funeral home had followed best practices by identifying the cremated remains and attempting to find families. The previous owner encountered what many do – the families had abandoned the cremated remains at the funeral home. Under Michigan law, cremated remains only need to be stored for six months before they can be respectfully placed, but the staff at many funeral homes balk at taking further action. They are troubled by the idea that cremated remains could be irrevocably separated from loved ones.
A recent issue of The Cremationist discussed this very topic. The answer, simply, is to take proactive steps to emphasize the value of permanent placement in all discussions with families and to encourage them to make a deliberate decision. For many, cremation is valued because it adds time and flexibility to make these important decisions, so they tend to endlessly defer them. Three industry professionals offered their recommendations for helping families make a choice that is right for them and appropriate for the storage space available in their funeral home.
A Question of Value by Steven Palmer
The question I pose to families choosing cremation is, “what would you do for a final decision if you hadn't selected cremation?” Now ultimate determinations must be considered.
To assist them in this thought process, I tell them not to think in the short term, but think eternally. If a casket is placed in a permanent resting place, why not an urn? Scattering is an option only to be chosen when it is well thought out and meaningful. It should not be performed because “we couldn't think of anything else.”
Other options to suggested may be:
Family Heritage Plot: Where are your grandparents or great-grandparents buried? In a large family lot back home? I am sure that there is space for an urn to reunite family.
Veterans Cemeteries: When an employee's husband died and was cremated, I suggested he be placed in a local national cemetery, taking advantage of this no cost benefit he had earned. She mentioned his mother's urn needed final placement somewhere. I inquired whether her father-in-law was a veteran. He was, an honorable discharge and marriage certificate were produced and, even though the father-in-law was interred in another state, she was eligible. Son and mother were placed in side by side niches without additional cost to the family.
Other more contemporary placements such as niches along a cemetery walkway or base of a statue or even being part of a reef placed in the ocean. Creative thinking can solve this indecision.
Dealing with Cremated Remains by Daniel M. Isard
I have a very dear friend whose mother was dying. Not understanding what I did for a living, but knowing it was in the funeral profession, she called me to help her plan her mother’s disposition. She wanted her mother’s body to be cremated. We went through the process of planning the funeral service.
Before the cremation I asked, “Mary, who do you want to take possession of your mother’s cremated remains?” She said, “Oh we don’t want them. Just tell the funeral director to do something with them!” I said, “The funeral home can place them in a cemetery for perpetual keeping or give them to you to dispose of as you see fit.”
Many consumers don’t care what happens to the cremated remains of their loved one’s body. There are added decisions they don’t want to deal with. These cremated remains can be converted into diamonds or potting soil but the consumer doesn’t want to make that decision.
One technique that I have found to be successful involves building out the cremation authorization to include the return of the cremated remains. The family is told that they can either pick-up the cremated remains from the funeral home or the funeral home can deliver the cremated remains to the appointed family member. The key points are the date range for the retrieval.
Offering Guidance on Cremation Options by Mark Zimmer
We acquired firm a few years ago, and during our due diligence, discovered a cupboard containing 16 cremated remains that were unclaimed. They had two crypts at a local cemetery into which the unclaimed urns were entombed, reopened as needed to add others. While this is an effective way of placing unclaimed urns in an accessible place, it is costly and in my opinion, not an option one wishes to exercise!
We have all read the professional journal articles suggesting that the funeral director needs to offer guidance to families. I agree and feel it is imperative to discuss what the family’s decision on final placement of the cremated remains will be at the arrangement conference. In the arrangement conference I have heard such remarks as, “don’t you get rid of them?” and “I never thought of that!”
Winter time in Wisconsin can be brutal. Frost can go as deep as 5 feet, with 25 inches of snow on the surface. Families who desire a service in January many times wish to postpone any committal or military honors until spring. They also feel uncomfortable about keeping their loved ones cremated remains at home.
It occurred to me some time ago that we needed to create an option for those at-need families who were not sure of what to do with the cremated remains. Our firm developed an “Urn Repository” which holds cremated remains on agreement with the family regarding final placement, how long the urn will remain at our firm, and how we will contact the family regarding a service at a later date. We then track aging, just like receivables, and send reminders as well as phone calls. It is a system that has proven effective!
Lending your company’s authority and your personal experience guides families to made decisions to honor their loved ones in a meaningful way. Working together to honor families’ wishes and ensure the deceased is properly cared for is paramount to CANA’s Code of Cremation Practice. It’s our duty as a service industry to find balance and peace for our communities.
Members can read the full article with complete introduction and additional solutions from Chris Farmer of The Farmer Firm in Vol. 52, No. 2 Issue of The Cremationist. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access this and all archives of The Cremationist plus resources and statistics to help you find solutions for all aspects of your business -- only $470.
Steven Palmer entered funeral service in 1971. A funeral director in Massachusetts and California, he purchased the Westcott Funeral Homes in Arizona in 1997. He is a past president of the Arizona Funeral Directors Association and current National Funeral Directors Association Policy Board Representative for Arizona. He has been a columnist for the Nomis Funeral & Cemetery News (former YB News) since 1996 and has contributed to other funeral service publications.
Dan Isard, MSFS, is a writer, educator, and management and financial consultant. He is the president of The Foresight Companies LLC, a Phoenix-based business and management consulting firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions, valuations, accounting, financing HR services, and family surveys. He can be reached at 800-426-0165 or email@example.com. Connect with Isard and The Foresight Companies by following them on Twitter at @f4sight or on Facebook.
Mark Zimmer, President of Zimmer Funeral Homes, Inc., attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago in 1977. Mark moved to the Sheboygan area in 1983 after purchasing the former Ahrens Funeral Home in Howards Grove. In 1996, he acquired the former Gerend-Habermann Funeral Home in Sheboygan. In 2003, work was completed on the new 8500-sq.-ft. Westview Funeral & Cremation Care Center. Mark is a past president of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association and a past president of the Lakeshore Funeral Directors Association.
tips and tools
Posted By Barbara Kemmis,
Thursday, October 26, 2017
In recent months, preplanning and preneed have become hotly discussed topics in the death care industry. CANA has plans to address them at the Preneed Summit, a special addition to the Cremation Symposium in February – a meeting for preneed professionals and those looking to learn how to improve their preneed strategy. Stay tuned for more details.
In the meantime, consider CANA Executive Director Barbara Kemmis’s own experience with her parents.
One morning, my dad called me at work, which was a first. I was immediately concerned that bad news was coming, however it turned out my parents had made a resolution to “get their affairs in order.” They were starting the process of prearranging their funerals and updating all of their end-of-life documents. My dad’s plan was to have everything in order before I visited in a couple of months. He was calling to confirm that the funeral home he had chosen was a CANA member.
CANA gets similar calls and web inquiries from consumers regularly and it got me thinking: What does a CANA membership and CANA certification mean to the consumer? The funeral home my parents chose is well respected in the community and is a CANA member that proudly displays the CANA logo on its website and front door. The crematory operators are all CANA certified, which means the employer saw value in providing continuing education for the staff. I contacted the funeral home owner, DeWayne Cain of Rest Haven Funeral Homes in Rockwall, Texas why he sought this designation for his business and staff, and what it means to the community he serves.
Dewayne and his staff serve hundreds of families like mine every year. Dewayne said, “CANA is considered the authority in training and certification for crematory operators. The outstanding CANA workshops, seminars and continuing education courses help my staff and me stay current on best practices for crematories. Rest Haven’s affiliation with CANA is important to me and to the families we serve, because it demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”
When I visited my parents, we went to the bank and spent time reviewing documents – living wills and worksheets from the funeral home. Not surprisingly, my mom had planned a lovely funeral for herself at which her many friends from church and her social clubs, former students and others could gather together. My mom is a social creature known for her party planning.
My dad’s worksheet simply stated, “Just cremate me.”
He explained that he didn’t want us to be sad or mourn him. He didn’t want a big deal made about his passing. He would be in heaven and we would see him again when it was our time. My mom and I looked at each other and then looked away. I said what she couldn’t at that moment. “I love you, Dad, and I will mourn you and I will cry when you die. I need to be surrounded by family and your friends and former students. I need to hear about the practical jokes you pulled in the classroom and the stories of your leadership in the church and community. I want to respect your wishes, but I will mark your passing. I love you too much not to.”
Cremation is really just the beginning of the conversation, though for too many people like my dad, it’s the end. Recently, I was saddened but unsurprising to read that an urn filled with cremated remains had been accidentally donated to Salvation Army. In a culture of well-meaning but uneducated consumers dealing with the new tradition of cremation, this situation is becoming all too common.
I’m grateful that my parents want to discuss preplanning and that I have access to the information provided by our members on the process, what to expect, and the importance of memorialization. As it says in the CANA Code of Cremation Practice, "Cremation should be considered as preparation for memorialization; and the dead of our society should be memorialized through a commemorative means suitable to the survivors."
The agreement I reached with my parents is that I will honor their wishes to be cremated and the details of the ceremony and final memorialization are underway. Our conversation continues about their “affairs,” and has become about much more than preplanning a cremation.
Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America.A version of this post first appeared on Confessions of a Funeral Director.
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